A special tribunal has sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone handed down its sentence Wednesday in The Hague, saying Taylor used his position to aid and abet rebels rather than to promote peace and stability.
Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said Taylor’s actions of supplying arms and providing encouragement and guidance to the rebels heightened the gravity of his criminal conduct.
“The steady flow of arms and ammunition he supplied extended the Sierra Leone conflict and the commission of crimes it entailed,” said Lussick. “Had the RUF/AFRC [Revolutionary United Front/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council] not had this support from Mr. Taylor, the conflict and the commission of crimes might have ended much earlier.”
Prosecutors had asked for an 80-year prison term, but the court said a sentence of that length “would be excessive.”
The court convicted the 64-year-old Taylor last month on all 11 counts of an indictment that included charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers and enslavement.
The court found Taylor did not have command and control of rebels who carried out abuses during Sierra Leone’s civil war, but was aware of their activities and provided them with weapons and other supplies.
It said Wednesday that Taylor’s status as leader of his country put him in a unique class compared to the “principal perpetrators” convicted earlier by the court.
Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, who briefly ruled Nazi Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler.
Taylor told judges at a sentencing hearing earlier this month that he has “deepest sympathies” for those who suffered during Sierra Leone’s brutal, decade-long civil war. But he stopped short of admitting any wrongdoing or apologizing for atrocities committed by rebels he armed in exchange for so-called “blood diamonds” mined in eastern Sierra Leone.